A thoroughly insane decision by Reds manager Bryan Price led to a 4-1 victory for the Reds, eliminating the Pirates from contention for the NL Central title. The Pirates will now host the Giants in the Wild Card game on Wednesday.
Amidst some controversy, the Pirates made a go-for-it move by having Gerrit Cole start today. So their plan looked something like this:
1) Cole pitches brilliantly.
2) The Pirates score some runs against Johnny Cueto.
3) The Diamondbacks beat Adam Wainwright.
4) Jeff Locke beats the Cardinals Monday!
No problemo! And, to the Pirates' credit, the first step of the plan worked very well. Cole was fantastic -- he gave up a run in the first but was toxic after that, striking out 12 batters in seven innings and giving up just four hits. That end of the Pirates' gamble paid off perfectly -- Cole was at the top of his game, and Josh Harrison backed him brilliantly with a string of fine defensive plays.
Unfortunately, the "score runs against Johnny Cueto" part didn't work out so well. Neil Walker tied the game with a solo homer in the fourth, but that's all the Pirates would get.
So, okay, fast forward to the bottom of the eighth. The Pirates bring Tony Watson on to relieve Cole, and Watson promptly gives up a triple to Jason Bourgeois as Andrew McCutchen struggles to field the ball. Uh oh. Zack Cozart lines out to Harrison, and then PRICE ALLOWS CUETO TO HIT. To put it bluntly, this makes no sense whatsoever -- even if you don't care about winning the game and are purely trying to get Cueto his 20th win, the play is to pinch-hit for Cueto and try to drive a ball to the outfield so Bourgeois comes home and you hand Aroldis Chapman a 2-1 lead in the ninth.
So ha ha, thanks for the free second out, Reds! Except Cueto grounds a single up the middle to make it 2-1. The Reds then replace Cueto with a pinch-runner, because who knows, and Kris Negron hits a two-run homer off Justin Wilson. Game over, pretty much.
So now the Pirates will head into the Wild Card game without Cole, who showed what he could do today but has nothing to show for it. I hate to be too results-oriented about the decisions the Pirates made, especially when they weren't half as dumb as the decision Bryan Price just got rewarded for, but I do wish the Bucs could set the clock back a few hours and have Cole take a seat.